Laughing or Weeping

“Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

People like to be made to laugh, and many professional comics make a good living telling jokes and doing slapstick comedy. Even in the realm of Christian ministry, those preachers and teachers who can keep their audiences laughing are often the most popular, especially among young people.

No doubt humor has a place, but it needs to be kept in perspective. Solomon had everything and tried everything, including activities promoting laughter and merriment, and was soon disillusioned. “I said in mine heart, . . . I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth: What doeth it?” (2:1-2).

In fact, some of it does harm, for convivial jesting all too often depends on bawdy humor, especially in today’s movies and television sitcoms. Concerning this problem, the Bible warns, “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, . . . Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

It is significant that we never read of Jesus laughing (nor Paul or any of the other apostles, for that matter), but we do read of Him weeping (Luke 19:41; John 11:35). In fact, He said on one occasion, “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). Similarly, the apostle James said, “Be afflicted, and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9).

There is much in the Bible encouraging us toward joy and happiness, of course. In a world of tears, we can be “as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10), knowing that “he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6). HMM

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